Free German audiobooks

May 17, 2012

Students of German looking for recordings with which to practice their listening comprehension can try looking about LibriVox, a site that publishes public domain recordings made from public domain texts. There are a great many recordings in German; students not ready to try their ears at Fontane’s Effi Briest might find Bürger’s Münchhausen, Busch’s Max und Moritz or Hoffman’s Erzählungen für Kinder within the reach of their listening abilities.

Auf der Hut sein

August 20, 2010

At my German discussion group last night some of us were talking about politics and having difficulty coming up with German equivalents of financial terminology like ‘mortgage’.

I can recommend‘s vocabulary trainer.  It allows you to create your own list of words you’d like to learn, and to feed that into a virtual flash card system.  Users can make their lists public.  There are quite a few public lists on special topics, like this list of  financial vocabulary in German, including ‘to take out a mortgage’ (eine Hypothek aufnehmen), but also ‘to be wary’ (auf der Hut sein).

There are also lists of vocabulary for beginners.

Some easy German poetry

August 7, 2010

A little while ago I made a recording for a good friend of mine who’s been learning German. The recording was of me reading a poem and explicating its vocabulary — all in German. The idea, for which I’m much obliged to Camille Cavalier-Karfis, is that even someone who’s just beginning to get to grips with the language should be able to follow what’s being said, and to develop their listening skills without having to torture themselves with listening to, say, the news in German.

The poem I chose is a very short and rather famous example of Goethe’s vers libre; one of the two poems to which he gave the title Wandrers Nachtlied, which he’s said to have carved into the wood of a hut somewhere while out walking.  The text of my recording follows. If any German speakers would be kind enough use to comment function to point out any errors the may find, I’d be much obliged.

Heute werde ich dir von dem Gedicht Wandrers Nachtlied von Johann Wolfgang von Goethe sprechen.

Ich werde langsam und deutlich sprechen, und eine alltägliche Sprache benutzen, um das Gedicht zu erklären.

Das Hörprogramm hat drei Teile.

Im ersten Teil des Programms werde ich das Gedicht langsam vorlesen.

Dann, im zweiten Teil des Programms, werde ich die Vokablen des Gedichts erklären.

Am Ende des Programms, im vierten Teil, werde ich das Gedicht im schnelleren Tempo wieder vorlesen.

Wandrers Nachtlied von Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Über allen Gipfeln
Ist Ruh,
In allen Wipfeln
Spürest du
Kaum einen Hauch;
Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde.
Warte nur, balde
Ruhest du auch.

Nun, ich werde jetzt den Text erklären.  Ich werde jedesmal eine Zeile des Gedichts lesen, und dann die Vokabeln jener Zeile erklären. Read the rest of this entry »

Translator’s Note

Adorno published Der getreue Korrepetitor in 1963. Subtitled Lehrschriften zur musikalischen Praxis it was taken up after his death into volume fifteen of his Gesammelte Schriften or collected writings, which volume also contains Komposition für den Film, a book he co-authored with Hans Eisler in 1944. Parts of The Faithful Répétiteur derived from Adorno’s time in America as well, namely from the studies he made of the NBC Music Appreciation Hour. They provided much material for the book’s first chapter, from which the excerpt presented here is taken. The excerpt begins at the point in the chapter at which “the negation of music appreciation turns into the plan for an idea of structural listening”, as Adorno says in the book’s preface. Read the rest of this entry »

[A translation of a post by Anatol Stefanowitsch of Bremer Sprachblog. The original is here.]

Language doesn’t only allow us to exchange information about the world, it also serves to negotiate and signal interpersonal relationships.

This is something we do by means, amongst others, of so-called polite-forms (or honorifics). In the simplest cases, they can involve special forms of address, like sir and ma’am, which are frequently found in American English, or the somewhat superannuated mein Herr or gnädige Frau in German.

But they can also occur as inflectional endings, which constitute a stable component of the grammar of a language, as, for instance, in Korean. If I should like simply to say “I eat lunch” in Korean then the neutral form is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »




When in the course of the history of living beings, it becomes necessary for one species to dissolve the bands that have bound it to another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the independent and equal station to which the laws of nature and its divinity entitle it, a decent respect for the opinions of all creatures requires that it should declare the grounds on which it acts.

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

that all creatures are created equal,

that they are endowed by the creator with inalienable rights, that among these
are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,

that in this respect no difference between human beings and animals obtains,

that therefore, according to the measure of the highest ideals, the proposition holds, all animals are human beings,

that accordingly dogs too may properly claim human rights,

that among the human rights of dogs there are included, aside from eating, drinking and sleeping: sniffing, straying from the path, barking, biting, cocking legs, playing at nonsense and a reasonable measure of general destruction, Read the rest of this entry »

Zanthens Yacht Xanthippe
war völlig unberechenbar,
trieb stets regelwidrig quer,
prosperierte oft nicht mehr,
landete kreuz-jammerbar
im Haitihafen gar,
fuhr entgegenkreuzend dann
Cubas Blumenküste an.

[By J Krüss, via !anaj ,em s’taht.]

Untranslatable, surely, but imitable. Some day.

For Moominissa.

Most translations have as one of their central goals an attempt to render the sense of a source text into a target language. But there is more to a text than what we mean by its “literal meaning”. One could even go much further, and say that phonic or graphic properties of a text, more than merely adding something the sense of the text, are co-constitutive of its sense, and that if they are changed, then the sense is changed. The concept of “translation loss” registers the fact that no translation can keep all the elements of a source text the same as they are: every translation must concentrate on some at the expense of others.

Aside from the interesting philosophical issues that this raises, it can pave the way to a broader conception of the possibilities of translation. I was first alerted to “phonic imitation” by Hervey, Higgins and Loughridge (Thinking German Translation, 44):

An entertaining illustration of the way phonic imitation in a [target text] renders the sense of the unrecognizeable is John Hulme’s Mörder Guss Reims, which consists in a playful imitation of English nursery rhymes. Here, for example, the text of ‘Humpty-Dumpty’ is reproduced as

Um die Dumm' die Saturn Aval;
Um die Dumm' die Ader Grät' fahl.
Alter ging's Ohr sä¨ss und Alter ging's mähen.
Kuh denn 'putt' um Dieter Gitter er gähn.

Here is Gustav Mahler’s Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht in phonic imitation. Mahler’s original text is available here, together with a translation that attempts to convey more literal meaning.

Venn mine shuts, hocked sight mucked

Venn mine shuts, hocked sight mucked,
Fur licker hocked sight mucked,
Hub BIC mine ant row, rig an' tug!
Gay hick in mine gamma line,
Do inkless gamma line,
Vine, an' vine, ooo! Mine an' shuts,
Ooo! Mine, an lea, ban shuts!
Bloom line blow! Bloom line blow!
Fair Dorevitch! Fair Dorevitch!
Berg-line Zeus, berg-line Zeus,
Dosings Alf crooner hide 'er.
Yuck! VSD felt's ocean!
T's a cute! T's a cute!
Zing! it nicked! Blue! it nicked!
Lenses char for buy!
Alice' singin', listnin' 'ouse.
Tess' are Ben's, Venn Nick's laughin' gay.
Then kick un-mine lied 'er.
Un-mine lied 'er.

Notes and Difficulties

Venn (ll. 1, 17), John: English logician 1834-1923.

Row (l. 3) must be pronounced as the word for ‘altercation’, not as the word
for ‘scull’.

VSD (l. 12): an abbreviation for I know not what.

In many places one could have chosen between an “an'” and a present participle verb
ending “-in'”.

Further reading

Charles Bernstein cites a few examples of phonic imitation, or, as he terms it, homophonic translation:

Louis and Celia Zukofsky’s Catullus., David Melnick’s Homer
at Eclipse: Men in Aida part one and part two; Ron Silliman on homophonic translation (his own, Melnick’s, and Chris Tysh’s), and two examples by Charles Bernstein — from Basque and from Portuguese.

Giambattista Bodoni

No art has more warrant to look towards future centuries than typography. For what it produces today is for the good of the world to come no less than for that of living generations.

Translated from the German (c) by Marc Hiatt. (12.01.07)

This quotation from Bodoni (1740-1813) is given as a typographical example by Jan Tschichold in his Meisterbuch der Schrift (1952) (known in English as Treasury of Alphabets and Lettering):

Keine Kunst hat mehr Berechtigung, ihren Blick auf die künftigen Jahrhunderte zu richten als die Typographie. Denn was sie heute schafft, kommt der Nachwelt nicht weniger zugute als den lebenden Geschlechtern.

Trento, the 11th of September [1786], morning.

After wholly fifty hours of life and continual occupation I arrived here yesterday at eight o’clock, went soon to rest, and now find myself again prepared to continue my story. On the evening of the ninth, when I had brought the first portion of my journal to a close, I still wanted to draw my lodging, the post office, in its place in the Brenner pass, but it was unsuccessful, I missed its character and went home half annoyed. My host asked whether I should like to leave, by moonlight was the best way, and whether I knew that he needed the horses in the morning to take in the hay , he would like to have them back by then. Although his counsel was self-serving I was pleased to take it, since it accorded with my inner impulse. The sun let itself be seen once more, the air was tolerable; I packed, and left at seven o’clock. The atmosphere got the better of the clouds and the evening turned quite beautiful.

The postillion fell asleep and the horses went down the mountain at the fastest trot, always taking the way familiar to them; if they came to a flat spot we went correspondingly slower. The driver woke up and drove them on again, and so, passing between high rocks, I reached the roaring Etsch river [1] with great speed. The moon came up and illuminated monstrous objects. Several mills between ancient pines over the foaming stream were complete Everdingens.[2]

Everdingen, Forest Scene

When at nine o’clock I reached Sterzing, I was given to understand that they wished me away again. In Mittenwald at twelve o’clock on the dot I found everything in a deep sleep, except the postillion, and so we continued on to Brixen, where I was once again helped on, so to speak, so that I arrived in Kollmann with the day. Read the rest of this entry »

Bozen. September 1st, 1788.

All my dear children: Gottfried, August, Wilhelm, Adelbert, little Luis and Emil!

I am now near to the borders of Germany and have nearly crossed the great highlands of the Tyrol. The mountains are high, on several there has been much snow, and the so-called “Portal” or “Cell” through which one passes into the Tyrol is especially beautiful, splendid and wild. We also came by Martin’s Wall where the Emperor Maximilian got lost, and in Innsbruck we saw a very beautiful memorial to him, of which I will tell you in person. I am now in Bozen where today there is a terribly great mass of people; 19,000 children are to be confirmed, since the bishop has not confirmed for many years. In front of our lodging-house, in the sun, there is a fruit market the like of which you have never seen in your life; there are pears, plums, grapes, nuts, figs; for figs do grow here. Soon we will come to the region where quinces and lemons grow. O, if only you were with me here, or that I could send you a basket of such fruit! But the lovely fruit would go bad on the way, just as lovely human hopes sometimes rot from the inside out. — Already there are flat roofs here, of which there are said to be many in Italy, where one can see a long way in all directions; and the air is entirely gentle, warm and mild. In the Tyrol highlands we saw chamois leaping, in Innsbruck we also ate one, and saw a tame one, entirely charming, that followed its provider, a farmer’s wife, everywhere. It was as agile as I wish you all to be. I would that you had been there with me and seen it, and I wish too, that you may one day see the mountains of the Tyrol and journey through them in gladness.

Apply yourselves to your studies with industry, and behave yourselves well; also, do learn to draw, for I regret very much that I cannot. The region is entirely too beautiful, and between the mountains there are a thousand waterfalls made by a stream, the Etsch. It flows very rapidly and particularly in the diocese of Brixen has beautiful trees on its banks: poplars, birches and willow-trees. For many hours we travelled far beside it. Seek it out on the map, you will be able to find our path. Tomorrow we arrive at Trento, perhaps I will have news of you there. Keep well, dear children, hold me in your affection and be healthy, and live in good accord with your mother and the rest of the household! It is late and no doubt you will be sleeping in your beds. Sleep tight!

Translated from the German (c) by Marc Hiatt. (6.08.06)

Reprinted in H G Fiedler (ed.), Das Oxforder Buch Deutscher Prosa von Luther bis Rilke (1943) Oxford.

Writers still object that because the typewriter does not obey the innervations of the hand it is supposedly incapable of producing a bodily sort of contact between thought and writing; writers for whom such contact is paramount should, it is said, keep with the fountain-pen. O romantic and inexperienced objection, that even maintains the mistrust of technology there where the thought long ago came to the rescue of technology! Nowhere is the contact between word and thought closer than on the typewriter. Not, admittedly, that between writing and thought. The hand that strikes into the material of the keys doesn’t bother itself with the written result that hovers way up there on the horizon of the machine. Rather it chisels word-bodies out of the keys, so clearly that it is as if they were held in the fingers under whose pressure they are sculpted out of the keyboard. On the machine, writing has been transformed back from a two-dimensional into a three-dimensional process. Words, across so many centuries merely read, can once again be felt; perhaps in this way we are getting them back within our grasp, whereas for so long we had been under the sway of their foreign power.

Translated from the German (c) by Marc Hiatt. (Last revised 5.08.2006.)

Written 1931. Collected in Gesammelte Schriften Bd. 20.2 (2003) Frankfurt a. M..

I got to know the music we are accustomed to calling classical as a child, through four-handed playing. There was little of the symphonic and chamber music literature that would not be incorporated into home life with the help of the large wide-format volumes, uniformly bound in green by the bookbinder. They seemed made for page-turning, and I was allowed to turn the pages well before I knew the notes, following only my memory and hearing. Even Beethoven’s violin sonatas found themselves included in peculiar arrangements. Some pieces, such as Mozart’s G-minor symphony, so impressed themselves on me during that time that even today it seems to me that no orchestra could ever produce the tension of the introductory semi-quaver movement as completely as the questionable attack of the second player. This music more than any other was suited to the apartment. It was brought forth on the piano as on a piece of furniture, and those who plied it without shyness in the face of interruptions and wrong notes belonged to the family.

Four-handed playing laid the geniuses of the bourgeois nineteenth century as a gift at my cradle in the beginnings of the twentieth. Four-handed music: that was music with which one could still live and commerce, before the musical compulsion itself demanded solitude and secret craft. That says something not merely about the practice of playing but also about that which was played. Read the rest of this entry »